I was at a conference a few years ago and heard pastor and author Andy Stanley say, “Do for one what you wish you could do for all.” I don’t know if you are like me but I can too easily buy into the myth that significance or influence is about the masses. The myth that the more people you lead, the larger the audience you speak to, the more followers, likes, or comments you have means you are more successful.
The problem with this view is that it’s false. As the old saying goes, you can be “a mile wide but an inch deep.” That’s the problem with the masses. For an instant they may be engaged with what you have to say, but that moment is fleeting. Your words don’t connect beneath the surface to their heart and your influence is very little.
I believe that leadership and influence is found not in the masses but in the one-on-one or smaller group interactions. It is found in the brief moments of a day that, at the time, don’t seem significant but over time add up to something significant. It’s like chopping down a tree with an axe. A single swing won’t do it. But if you hit the same spot every time, eventually you will accomplish your goal.
If we want to have significant influence with others, we must have a paradigm shift.
Influence That Everyone Can Achieve
The paradigm shift is this: Focus the majority of your conversations and interactions on the other person by asking yourself, “How can I add value to this person right now?” Most people care more about what they have to say and what’s going on in their life than what’s happening with you. It’s human nature.
One of our greatest needs as humans to feel important or significant. When you focus a conversation on someone else by asking them questions and being genuinely interested in what they have to say, that person feels valued. So when you take the time to listen, hear about their success and struggles, that person feels that they matter to you.
What makes this approach so powerful is that in today’s world, we elevate talking or sharing our points of view. Just look at social media. People would rather share than listen. Listening has become a lost art. And yet it is the key to unlocking influence.
Years ago, Gallup wrote a book entitled, How Full Is Your Bucket. The premise of the book is that we all have a proverbial “bucket” that can be filled or drained during the day. Most people go through life constantly focused on getting their bucket filled. The problem with this approach is that if two people engage in a conversation where they are each focused on having their own bucket filled, they end up draining one another’s buckets.
What if you decided to go against the crowd and made the decision that you would be a bucket-filler? What if your goal was to figure out what fills another person’s bucket and focused on their bucket and not yours?
This doesn’t mean you don’t have strategic and intentional relationships with people in your life who help fill your bucket. I think every leader needs an inner circle where they can go for replenishment. However, a leader’s focus should be on meeting the needs of the people around them first and foremost.
Here is what most people don’t realize: when you seek to fill other people’s buckets, something magical happens. Your bucket gets filled. As the ancient Hebrew proverb says, “The one who waters will himself be watered.”
I have two challenges for you today:
- Pick one day this week where you make an intentional effort to focus conversations and interactions on the other person. Make it your goal to fill their bucket. And remember their bucket probably gets filled differently than yours. At the end of the day, debrief. Reflect on these questions:
- What did you learn about yourself in those conversations?
- Was it difficult not to make those conversations about yourself and your wants/needs?
- Pick two or three people in your life for whom you want to be a regular bucket-filler. Maybe it’s your spouse, child, co-worker, or close friend. I guarantee you that over time your influence will grow with them as you consistently fill their buckets.